As soon as your baby is born, beneficial microbes, or “friendly” bacteria are present. They are already protecting the baby's intestinal tract, thus promoting digestive health. There's a lot of talk these days on prebiotics and probiotics for infants, but we'll get into that shortly. Without getting into the science too much, here's a quick rundown on how the baby's healthy gut flora protects it:
- Produces vitamins
- Produces hormones
- Aids the immune function
- Prevents the colonization of harmful bacteria
This short video shows how prebiotics work in infants and how they can benefit babies fed on formula:
Choosing Probiotics/prebiotics for Baby
High street stores sell these products over the counter. Even so, it's important that you know how to properly supplement your infants diet. Not all supplements are equal. If in doubt, be sure to consult with your doctor or other qualified professional. Not all infants, and especially those which are breast fed, will need probiotic and/or prebiotic supplements.
Scientists now understand the value of probiotics and prebiotics for human health. We can even find them more and more in fortified foods, including baby formulas and baby foods. However, when it comes to babies, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests using mostly prebiotics, not probiotics. Your baby will already have plenty of “good” bacteria in its system. Prebiotics will feed and strengthen what is already present. If the baby could use a little probiotic boost, then buttermilk and yogurt are perhaps the safest types of probiotics for infants.
Science suggests that an early supplementation of prebiotic oligosaccharides in formula-fed infants is beneficial. It protects them from infections in those early months of life, especially the first six months: